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Federico and Lourenco are brothers. Their father is black, a famed forensic pathologist for the police; their mother is white. Federico - distant, angry, analytical - has light skin, which means he`s always been able to avoid the worst of the racism that Brazilian culture has to offer. He can `pass` as white, and yet, because of this, he has devoted his life to racial justice. Lourenco, on the other hand, is dark-skinned, easy-going, and well-liked in the brothers` hometown of Porto Alegre - and has become a father himself.
As Federico`s fiftieth birthday looms, he joins a governmental committee in the capital. It is tasked with quelling the increasingly violent student protests rocking Brazil by overseeing the design of a software program that will adjudicate the degree to which each university applicant is sufficiently black to warrant admittance under new affirmative-action quotas. Before he can come to grips with his feelings about this initiative, not to mention a budding romance with one of his committee colleagues, Federico is called home: his niece has just been arrested at a protest carrying a concealed gun. And not just any gun. A stolen police service revolver that Federico and Lourenco hid for a friend decades before. A gun used in a killing.
Paulo Scott here probes the old wounds of race in Brazil, and in particular the loss of a black identity independent from the history of slavery. Exploratory rather than didactic, a story of crime, street-life and regret as much as a satirical novel of ideas, Phenotypes is a seething masterpiece of rage and reconciliation.
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